Join us in Nashville for the 2021 Making Schools Work Conference

Join us in Nashville for the 2021 Making Schools Work Conference

Share your strategies, struggles and success stories with us during four days of learning, collaborating and networking that will advance your K-12 school improvement efforts and raise student achievement. Every educator will benefit from over 400 sessions on topics like addressing the effects of poverty and ensuring equitable access to quality instruction, wherever teaching and learning takes place.

Learn with the leading experts in your field

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Kim Bearden, Cofounder, Executive Director and Language Arts Teacher at the Ron Clark Academy

Kim Bearden
Cofounder, Executive Director and Language Arts Teacher at the Ron Clark Academy

Opening General Session – Keynote Speaker

2:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 6, 2021

SREB is excited to announce that our 2021 Making Schools Work Conference opening keynote speaker will be Kim Bearden, the cofounder, executive director, and language arts teacher at the highly acclaimed Ron Clark Academy, an innovative middle school and educator-training facility in Atlanta.

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Doug Major
Superintendent/CEO, Meridian Technology Center; President-elect, ACTE

Doug Major is superintendent and CEO of Meridian Technology Center in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and the president-elect of ACTE, the Association for Career and Technical Education, the member association of CTE educators in the United States.

Major began his career as an agriculture education student in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. Through his membership in FFA, he had the opportunity to serve both as a local and state officer, which helped shape his decision to enter the teaching profession.

After earning his bachelor’s in agriculture education at Oklahoma State University, he taught for two years at Anadarko High School. In 1987, Major had the opportunity to join the Oklahoma CareerTech system as an administrative intern at Meridian Technology Center and worked there 13 years in various administrative capacities. During his tenure at Meridian, he also completed both his master’s and doctoral degrees from OSU. In 2000, Major was selected as the Superintendent/CEO of Pioneer Technology Center. He held this position before returning to Meridian Technology Center in November 2008 as Superintendent/CEO.

Throughout his career, Major has participated on many local boards as well as state and national associations. He has held offices in the Oklahoma Technology Center Superintendents’ Association, the Oklahoma Council of Local Administrators, the Oklahoma Association of Career and Technical Education and the National Council of Local Administrators for Career and Technical Education. Major was selected to participate in the first National Leadership Institute sponsored by the National Centers for Career and Technical Education and is a past president of the Association for Career and Technical Education. Major is a graduate of Leadership Stillwater and Leadership Oklahoma and was appointed by Governor Henry to serve on the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. In 2012 The Journal Record honored Major as one of Oklahoma’s Most Admired CEOs. In 2017, he received the Francis Tuttle Career Excellence Award recognizing a career devoted to the development of excellence in people through career and technology education.

Dr. Major and his wife, Sandy, have four children and reside in Stillwater.

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Mary Hemphill-Joseph
State Director, K-12 Computer Science and Technology Education, North Carolina

Mary Hemphill is North Carolina’s first state director of K-12 Computer Science and Technology Education. With over 15 years of professional experience as a teacher, administrator, state director and university professor, Hemphill understands the importance of fusing education, empowerment and leadership as she works with communities as a leadership expert and coach and inspirational speaker. She has reached over 25,000 individuals with a message of transformation and innovation, self-empowerment and leadership.

In her role as state director for computer science, Hemphill is leveraging support and leadership around CS initiatives through the development of the #IAmCS campaign. #IAmCS aims to move the needle on equity-focused strategies to strengthen the North Carolina CS landscape for all students.

Watch a video of Dr. Mary Hemphill-Joseph offering words of encouragement to educators as they innovate, problem-solve and face conflict like never before. Meet her at SREB's 2021 Making Schools Work Conference in Nashville, July 6-9, 2021.She has presented at such conferences as the Model Schools Conference, All Things Open, The Future of Tech is Female and the NCASA Conference on Educational Leadership. In 2018, Hemphill was named Regional Principal of the Year for the Sandhills Region of North Carolina. She is the co-founder of a 501c(3), Rebrand NC Education, which helps North Carolina school leaders shatter the status quo and shift the conversation around public education.

Hemphill holds a Ph.D. in leadership studies from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.


Joseph Valerio
Program Director, AVIXA Foundation

Joseph Valerio is Program Director for the AVIXA Foundation, charitable arm of AVIXA, the international trade association representing the audiovisual industry. He oversees all efforts devoted to creating opportunities for tomorrow’s AV professionals.

Valerio manages the Foundation’s workforce development programs and partnerships with schools and allied organizations. He also spearheads the many annual scholarship and grants awarded to students and community groups striving for success in the industry.

Valerio recently launched a global campaign to raise awareness of AV careers, bring skills training to more communities and connect people to their first AV job.


Cheri Dedmon
Account Manager, Teaching Channel

Cheri Dedmon, Teaching Channel Account Manager, provides solutions to challenges faced by both large and small educational organizations throughout the Southeast and Midwest.

Dedmon has been an active member of the education community for over 43 years, having served in the role of classroom teacher, high school principal, district staff and member of the National School Reform Faculty.

Dedmon also launched a local teacher residency program in Tennessee supported by the Public Education Foundation. She serves as an academic coach to new teachers at a local urban STEM charter school for girls in her community.


Robert Jackson
Robert Jackson Consulting

Robert Jackson began his teaching career over 20 years ago in Indianapolis Public Schools with a “no more excuses” teaching approach that set high expectations for his students and challenged them to not let their personal circumstances define their futures.

Jackson’s goal is to teach educators and administrators how to use their power more effectively to educate, activate and motivate all students to be successful.

As a highly sought-after speaker, Jackson delivers keynotes and workshops nationwide to educators, administrators, parents and students on such topics as cultural diversity, restorative practices, social and emotional learning, working with students who have experienced trauma and educating Black and Latino males.

Jackson has written and published numerous books and articles, including Black Men Stand Up, A Boy’s Guide to Manhood, A Young Woman’s Guide to Womanhood, Put a Stop to Bullying and Solutions to Educating Black and Latino Males.

He is a life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., and the NFL Players Association.

Jackson holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology from Western Kentucky University.

Phyllis Donatto, Founder and CEO, FTH Dimension Solutions

Phyllis Donatto
Founder and CEO, FTH Dimension Solutions

Phyllis Donatto is the founder and CEO of FTH Dimension Solutions. A first-generation college graduate, she holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, a master’s in reading, a master’s in theological studies and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction. She is certified in school administration and is also a reading specialist.

Donatto’s K-12 and postsecondary experiences include serving as a leadership development strategist, educational consultant, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, PK-16+ coordinator, campus improvement specialist, administrative intern (assistant principal), Title I compliance coordinator and classroom teacher.

Educators, Phyllis Donatto of FTH Dimension Solutions wants you to know that *you* are the difference-makers in your students' lives. Despite many challenges, you have the power to get things done and have not lost sight of your "why." Meet Phyllis and celebrate your year and your accomplishments at the 2021 Making Schools Work Conference in Nashville, July 6-9 at the Gaylord Opryland.She provides leadership to organizations in the areas of career, executive and life coaching, strategic planning, team growth and organizational climate. Donatto has presented internationally, nationally, statewide and locally on topics ranging from cultivating culture and climate to effective teaching and learning strategies.

Donatto is a certified Paradigm 360 Executive Coach and enjoys a reputation as a “Hopeologist.” She is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.


Steph Jensen
Director of Community Contracts, Boys Town

Steph Jensen is the director of community contracts for Boys Town National Community Support Services.

Jensen joined Boys Town in 2003. She has been in the educational field since 1995, holding positions from middle school teacher, district reading specialist and school consultant, speaker and author.

In her 15 years with Boys Town, Jensen has overseen the implementation of external training contracts nationally and internationally. She has worked closely with organizations ranging from the Japanese Child Welfare Department to Chicago Public Schools Office of School Improvement. 

Jensen applies her education knowledge and experience with school reform and transformation to schools across the country, helping them create healthy learning climates that focus on the social and emotional needs of students.


Rodney Flowers
Founder/president, Inspirational Endeavors, LLC

Rodney Flowers, founder and president of Inspirational Endeavors, LLC, inspires, motivates and encourages individuals to reach for their hopes and dreams with earnest expectations regardless of their limitations or challenges.

After a traumatic high school football injury, Flowers was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Despite an unfavorable prognosis for recovery, he spent the next 18 years regaining his ability to walk and making a positive impact on the world.

Today, Flowers is an internationally respected writer, communicator, influencer, thought leader and change agent for overcoming life’s adversities and maximizing individual achievement and success.

Flowers is a three-time international Amazon bestselling author, keynote speaker, CEO, entrepreneur, transformational leader and resilience trainer.


Joe Hendershott
Co-founder, Hope 4 The Wounded, LLC

Joe Hendershott, co-founder of Hope 4 The Wounded, LLC, has an extensive background working with at-risk and wounded youth as a teacher, coach and administrator in traditional, alternative and correctional education settings.

Hendershott has served as a high school assistant principal, head principal, alternative school principal and principal at a residential facility.


Nai Wang
Founder/president, KP Education Systems

Nai Wang is founder and president of KP Education Systems.

As a child, Nai struggled in public education, even failing a math class.  Growing up in an immigrant family that ran a restaurant, Nai and his family couldn’t afford medical treatment for his ADHD. That’s when he fell in love with video games, a medium that stimulated his mind at the pace he needed.

Baruti Kafele,  School Leadership Expert & Education Speaker

Baruti Kafele
School Leadership Expert & Education Speaker, Principal Kafele

A highly-regarded urban educator in New Jersey for over 20 years, Principal Baruti Kafele distinguished himself as a master teacher and a transformational school leader. As an elementary school teacher in East Orange, New Jersey, he was selected as the East Orange School District and Essex County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, and he was a finalist for New Jersey State Teacher of the Year.


Leslie Hazle Bussey
CEO/Executive Director, GLISI

Leslie Hazle Bussey is CEO and Executive Director of GLISI (the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement), a nonprofit serving and growing over 1,500 school leaders annually in 50+ districts across Georgia.

Now in her 10th year at GLISI, Bussey leads a team of skilled facilitators, designers, and researchers of adult development experiences to bring to life GLISI’s mission, which is also their theory of action: Uplift school leaders,  transform mindsets and action, create vibrant cultures of innovation and build excellent and equitable schools.

GLISI’s approach to leader development recognizes that leaders need more than technical skills to successfully build vibrant school cultures that disturb the status quo and engage every child – and adult – in meaningful learning experiences connecting them to a choice-filled future.

Prior to GLISI, Bussey was Director of Research in the Learning Centered Leadership group at SREB. She began her career over 25 years ago as a teacher of middle grades students in Lusaka, Zambia.

Bussey holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Saint Louis University, an M.Ed. in Educational Media and Technology from Boston University, and a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Washington.


Marck Abraham
Founder and CEO, MEA Consultants, LLC

Marck Abraham is the founder and CEO of MEA Consultants, LLC, which he designed to help poorly performing schools and organizations increase achievement for all students, especially young men of color.

As a thought leader for men of color, author and motivational speaker, Abraham has presented to various education audiences and school districts in New York and across the country. His most recent article, “Culturally Proficient Leadership: Improving the High School Graduation Rate for Black Males,” appeared in the February issue of Principal Leadership.

In this inspiring video, Dr. Marck Abraham of MEA Consultants, LLC, offers words of encouragement to educators nationwide and urges them to think outside the box and embrace virtual solutions to the challenges of the 2020-21 school year.Abraham’s strategies for increasing graduation rates for males of color has been featured in SREB’s Promising Practices Newsletter, the Buffalo News and on local radio. He was also recently recognized by the mayor of Buffalo, New York, as one of the top principals in the city of Buffalo. McKinley High School, where he was principal, was cited by New York State Education Department for having one of the highest graduation rates for males of color in New York. Abraham is currently offering online webinars for principals and school teams across the country to participate in live discussions of practical strategies for increasing graduation rates for males of color. 

Abraham completed his doctorate at St. John Fisher College.


Catherine Guimarães
Regional Director, Teaching Channel

Catherine Guimarães, Regional Director for Teaching Channel since 2015, supports districts in using Teaching Channel Plus – a video-enabled learning management system – and adopting personalized professional learning. She believes educators are powerful influencers and leaders in making a better universe. 

Prior to her work with Tch, Guimarães led a team in designing online learning courses, served as an assistant principal at Girls Prep Middle School, led educators across New York City in the transition to the Common Core, and taught in middle schools in Boston and Washington, D.C.

Guimarães holds a Master of Social Work and a Master of Public Policy from Columbia University.


Thomas Glanton
President, The Education Company

Thomas Glanton, Jr., is president and lead consultant for The Education Company, a national educational consulting company specializing in school improvement and the art of school leadership. Under his leadership, the company has served over 200,000 teachers and administrators in public, private, and charter schools across the U.S.

Glanton works directly with school and district leaders to develop their capacity to create school climates that are conducive to student success by focusing on operations, instructional leadership, data analysis and school performance.

An Atlanta native, Glanton has decades of experience in public school education, having served as a high school English teacher, a high school principal and an elementary school assistant principal. His application of a comprehensive discipline management program transformed a Title I school and earned him accolades as a Georgia PTA Principal of the Year.

Glanton also served as the director of leadership development for the DeKalb County School System, one of the most culturally diverse counties in the nation. Glanton speaks widely at national and regional education conferences and is an active member of various civic organizations and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.


Zackory Kirk
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, The Learning Company

Zackory Kirk, former director of curriculum and instruction for Atlanta Public Schools and K-12 ELA coordinator for Henry County Schools, has served as a teacher and educator for more than 16 years. Kirk inspires teachers and leaders to adopt a continuous improvement mindset grounded in the responsibilities of teaching and leadership as a profession of service.

Kirk holds an Ed.D. in educational leadership and administration from Argosy University Sarasota and currently serves educators through the connected solutions provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, The Learning Company.


Kari Hankins
Co-founder, B Curriculum, LLC, and Truth, Facts & Lies

Kari Hankins is one of the co-founders of B Curriculum, LLC, and the Truth, Facts & Lies education program, a seven-session, evidence-based, social emotional learning curriculum for middle grades and high school students that addresses human trafficking, online solicitation, bullying, social media safety, relationship abuse and addiction.

Kari Hankins started an adolescent GYN program at a local pediatric practice in 2010. While working with teen girls, she recognized a need for nonjudgmental, factual information and education for that age group. In response, in 2016, she and her partners Susan Couch and Kristen Cassidy created the Truth, Facts & Lies curriculum. She is also the founder of the Southwest Louisiana Youth Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

Hankins has presented at multiple conferences and in-services for medical professionals, social workers, educators and counselors. She also serves as a guest lecturer for the local nursing school.

She hosts regular parent education programs to help arm parents with the knowledge they need to help their teens safely navigate a rapidly changing world. In 2018, she was awarded the Pinnacle of Light & Hope Award for her work with youth in her community.

Hankins holds a bachelor’s of science in nursing from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans and a master’s in nursing from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner.

Kristen Cassidy, co-creator of the Truth, Facts & Lies education program, is a licensed professional counselor-supervisor and a national certified counselor. She also has a private practice in Jennings, Louisiana, where she provides counseling to adults and children in both individual and family settings.

As an employee of Family & Youth in Lake Charles, Louisiana, from 2007 to 2013, Kristen Cassidy facilitated social skills groups for the Autism Support Alliance, conducted forensic interviews for the Children’s Advocacy Center and provided counseling for the Shannon Cox Counseling Center and Performance Employee Assistance Program, two programs at Family & Youth.

Cassidy holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology from McNeese State University.  

Vice President, Providence Cristo Rey High School

Frederick Yeakey
Vice President, Providence Cristo Rey High School

Frederick Yeakey is vice president of Providence Cristo Rey High School in Indianapolis, as well as an educational consultant and speaker who has delivered keynotes and workshops on culture, diversity, mentorship, character development, purpose and equity to educators, administrators, parents and students.

Yeakey began his educational career over 14 years ago as a director of an after-school program and summer program for “The 100 Black Men of Indianapolis,” with a mission to empower those who are often forgotten about. In his 14-year teaching career, Yeakey has taught at public, charter and private schools. For the last six years, he has served in an administrative role.

Frederick Yeakey, Building Relationships VideoYeakey has received national attention for his work with a male mentoring initiative, “The Barbershop,” which was featured in a recent issue of SREB’s Promising Practices Newsletter. By offering free haircuts, Yeakey encourages and empowers male students to stay on track to graduate and make impact in the communities that they serve. He sets high expectations for his students and believes they should never allow their circumstances to shape their future — or to feel sorry for themselves.

Yeakey received a B.A. in Public Administration from Kentucky State University and a Master of Arts in Teaching and Building Level Administration Certificate from Marian University.

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